Excessive alcohol use costing Eau Claire County Residents - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Excessive alcohol use costing Eau Claire County Residents

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Eau Claire (WQOW) - The cost of alcohol can run much higher than what someone spends at the store or tavern.  University of Wisconsin researchers have been studying the economic impact excessive drinking has locally. They released a study yesterday with the details.

"It's a powerful way to look at how a health problem impacts us. When you look at money, people really pay attention," said Lieske Giese, Director of the Eau Claire City/County Health Department.

The results are in, and Eau Claire County residents are paying for excessive alcohol use. It costs the average person $1,600 a year and county wide, a total of $160 million.

"Every employer in Eau Claire County is impacted by people that are misusing alcohol. Because of productivity, because of sick days, because of all those things that change the worker's ability to perform," Giese explained.

The level of binge drinking in Eau Claire County currently sits at 30%, nearly twice the national average.

"Certainly it's partly our population that's here, but that's not the whole answer, you know that we have college students here. We really have a culture here that's been accepting of that. And it's something that we need to change," said Giese.

So where does the money go? Besides lost productivity, some of it goes to law enforcement.

"Between January 1 and March 17th, our department has handled approximately 90 drunk driving arrests," said Lt. Jim Southworth of the Eau Claire Police Department.

"If we have a drunk driver, that takes initially 2 officers about 45 minutes," Southworth explained.

That doesn't even count the time officers need to book that person.

The Eau Claire Health Department recognizes the problem, and is working to make changes.

"Things like "Parents Who Host Lose the Most Campaigns that are happening now. We really need to start young. There are efforts underway, and we've seen great improvements already in underage drinking. But we've got a long ways to go," Giese said.

If you're wondering about the cost of excessive alcohol use in other counties, click here. In Chippewa and Dunn counties for example, the impact is around $1,000 per person.

 

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